New indictment seeks up to 5 years in prison for jailed Kurdish leader over decade-old tweet

Ankara prosecutors have filed a new indictment for jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on charges of terrorism based on a social media post dating back to 2013, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Mezopotamya news agency.

In the 28-page indictment, Demirtaş is accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” in a tweet that allegedly praised the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Nov. 16, 2013, according to Mezopotamya.

Submitted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to Ankara 17th High Criminal Court on March 23, the indictment calls for between one and five years in prison for Demirtaş, Mezopotamya said, adding that the court had yet to accept the indictment.

Turkish authorities had conducted direct talks with Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU, for over two years until the summer of 2015, when the death of two police officers near the Syrian border became the official reason for its collapse.

Since then, there have been continuing clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces. More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), together with its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the PKK.

The party denies links to PKK and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue and is only coming under attack because of its strong opposition to Erdoğan’s 19-year rule.

Arrested on Nov. 4, 2016, on terrorism-related charges, Demirtaş has since then remained in prison despite two European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings in 2018 and 2020 that said Demirtaş was imprisoned for “political” reasons and not for “legal” reasons, ordering his “immediate release.”

In February an appeals court upheld a prison sentence of three-and-a-half years handed down to Demirtaş for insulting Erdoğan.

Demirtaş was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling party AKP and its leader, Erdoğan, before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. The imprisoned leader conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.

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